Islanders: Jason Spezza could have been that elite center

Toronto Maple Leafs v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three
Toronto Maple Leafs v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza announced his retirement on Sunday. The 19-year vet played for three different clubs and amassed 995 points in 1248 NHL games. But neither of the teams Spezza played for are the New York Islanders, so why am I bringing this up?

If you're new to the fan base you might not be aware of the link. First, welcome to the fanbase, glad you're on board. But more importantly, back in 2001, the Islanders traded Bill Muckalt, Zdeno Chara, and the second overall pick in the 2001 draft for Alexei Yashin. That second overall pick was used by the Ottawa Senators to select Jason Spezza.

New York Islanders: Jason Spezza could have been that elite center

It was a hell of a trade then as it is now. The Islanders gave up some incredible future assets for an immediate impact.

The Islanders hadn't made the playoffs for seven straight seasons before the Yashin trade. They'd make the playoffs the first year after the trade and in three of the next four years. So that plan worked, of sorts.

Yashin would only play five years for the Isles. Meanwhile, Chara would turn into that Hall of Fame player and play another 20 years in the NHL after the trade.

Only three years into Spezza's NHL career (a career that would span 19 years), he showed he would be an elite NHL center. We already knew he would be a good player, he was drafted second overall for a reason. But by year three of his NHL career (2005-06), Spezza put up 19 goals and 71 assists for 90 68 games. A pace of 109 points.

In seven seasons from 2005-06 through 2011-12, Spezza would play 495 games, score 197 goals, and put up 540 points. That's 12th in the NHL during that seven year period.

I know the Islanders traded the future for the now. And they got what they wanted, which was making the playoffs. But boy, at what costs?

Its not like they made much noise in said playoffs. In those four playoff appearances they went 6-16 and never won a round.

Who knows if Spezza as well as keeping Chara would have changed that. But you have to think, drafting the most productive player from the 2021 draft in Spezza, that it would have been worth seeing if it could have.

Happy retirement to Jason Spezza who was hell of a player in the NHL and should have been an Islander.